Tuesday, June 28, 2022

"After the Thin Man" (1936)

After the Thin Man (1936) picks up right after The Thin Man (1934), with Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) getting off the train in California, home again from their jaunt to New York City over the holidays.  

Nora is still filled with exuberance over her husband solving a difficult murder, and now she wants him to take another case.  Her cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) is desperately unhappy, and Nora fears she's in danger of some sort.  Nick is not enchanted with this idea.  Nora's wealthy, snobby family mocks and snubs him.  And he's going to be plenty busy catching up on business matters after spending time away.

But Nick loves Nora as much as Nora loves Nick, so we all know he'll help her cousin.

Poor cousin Selma!  Her feckless husband Robert (Alan Marshal) has disappeared.  Again.  She calls Nora for help because she's the only person Selma knows who might be willing to help her find Robert.  Everyone else in the family would rather he stay lost for good.

Nora convinces Nick to look for Robert, and she also convinces him to take her to her Aunt Katherine's (Jessie Ralph) for New Year's.  That was a good call, since it means Nick gets to dress up and look dapper.

Nora's whole extended family has assembled, a sort of family meeting to decide What To Do About Robert.  But disguised as a dinner party.  They barely tolerate Nick because he's Low Class™ and a Former Detective™.  He amuses himself by mocking them when only Nora is looking.

After dinner, who should drop by but David (James Stewart), Selma's former fiance and faithful friend.  While Nick and Nora head off to try to find Robert, David stays to keep Selma company.

This is the earliest James Stewart movie I've seen -- isn't he a sweet little choir boy?  Robert is quiet and kind and kind of adorkable, like so many of Stewart's characters, especially in the '30s and '40s.

Anyway, Nick and Nora head off to a nighclub that Robert favors.  There, we get treated to a pretty lengthy song-and-dance number by Polly (Dorothy McNulty, aka Penny Singleton).  Polly is Robert's new gal pal, and we all start to realize that a) Selma is better off without Robert, and b) Robert would be better off without Polly.

Here's Robert, the drip, goggling at Polly and swilling gin or something.

And here's Dancer (Joseph Calleia), owner of this night club and close associate of Polly.  I am getting so fond of Calleia!  He's in lots of Alan Ladd movies, including The Glass Key (1942), Captain Carey, USA (1950), and Branded (1950).  He keeps popping up in noir films for me too lately, like Gilda (1946).  I'm always happy to see him, as he never gets boring, but he doesn't overdo things either.

Well, pretty soon, the plot thickens, along with the fog.  Dear old David pays Robert a bunch of money to stay away from Selma for good.  And then Robert gets himself killed before he can run off with Polly.

Who could have killed Robert?  Was it Selma?  Polly?  David?  Polly's "brother" (a very young Paul Fix)?  Dancer?  Aunt Katherine?  The list of suspects is long, and it takes all of Nick's brains and wits and wisecracking to figure it all out.

Of course, he does.  The movie ends with Nick and Nora on a train again, taking Selma on a long holiday.  There's just one mystery left:  what is Nora knitting?

Why, that looks like a tiny sock just the right size for... a baby!

Oh, Mrs. Charles!  And Mr. Charles!  What a surprise!

I really love this movie series.  This second film might be a little better than the first in some ways -- I think it has fewer red herrings, though it also might be a little less funny.  Still, the dialog zings, the chemistry between Powell and Loy sizzles, and the plot rolls merrily along.  Dashiell Hammett wrote the story for this, though not as a full novel like the first one.  It has the same director (W. S. Van Dyke) and screenwriters (Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett). so it matches the first movie really well.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically, yes.  No cussing, no racy scenes, no bloody violence.  People do get killed, and there's obviously more going on between Robert and Polly besides patty-cake, but that is all implied.  There's quite a bit of alcohol getting consumed, just like in the first movie.

This is my contribution to the MGM Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes :-)  It's not as in-depth as I had planned because I'm hampered by this broken arm, but I hope you still get a sense of how fun this movie is!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Summer 2022 To-Do List

Well, this has changed a bit from what I was expecting, since I broke my arm.  For much of this summer, I simply can't do stuff like go swimming or have squirt gun fights with my kids.  But I still have a lot of goals and projects to work on anyway.  Here are things I want to accomplish by the end of August.

~ Keep pushing My Rock and My Refuge closer to publication

I'm not holding myself to my original goal of an August release because... a broken right arm makes typing and using a mouse hard, since I am right handed!  I'm pretty speedy at typing with only my left, but the next round of revising will most likely be about finding errors and removing extraneous stuff, and that's more mouse-work.  And, I am really slow using a mouse with my left hand.  I make it work, obviously, but it is gonna be the end of July before my right arm can be truly back in use, so... we are looking at a fall release, now.

~ Start reposting my old Femnista articles here

Femnista's website will get shut down at the end of July, but the editor, Charity Bishop, has given us all permission to repost our old articles on our own sites and blogs, so I will be doing that.

(All photos are mine from my Instagram account.)

~ Read 3 books from my current Classics Club List

~ Read 12 books off my TBR shelves

~ Watch 6 movies off my TBW shelves

~ Go see Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris in the theater.  I like the 1992 version already, and even read the book years ago.  Such a sweet, uplifting story.

~ Go see Vengeance in the theater.  Maybe.  I think I want to see it, anyway.

~ Co-host Legends of Western Cinema Week once again.  Details are here!

~ Go to Tweetsie Railroad with my whole family

~ Go to Colonial Williamsburg

~ Find a good copycat recipe for Dole Whip

~ Make red, white, and blue popsicles for our Independence Day party.  Maybe something like this?

Okay, it's taken me several days to write this post because of my broken arm, blah blah blah, so I am going to say this is enough to do this summer and go ahead and post this :-D  Here's to all the fun times ahead!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Movie Music: Henry Mancini's "Charade" (1963)

Is there any composer at all who embodies '60s cool so completely as Henry Mancini? Yeah, didn't think so. And nowhere does his music exude cool so much as in the soundtrack for Charade (1963).  It's a thrilling adventure that stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and James Coburn and Walter Matthau and George Kennedy, and if you want to know more about it, you can read my review here.

If you like cool '60s movies OR rompy mysteries OR classy, sassy movies with a Hitchcock vibe, then you need watch this movie. But if you don't have time to watch it just this minute, you can hang out here and listen to a few of my favorites from the soundtrack. 

"Main Title" has this sexy, lounge-y theme set over some very tense and insistent percussion. Like someone telling you to run away from the bad guys, but be sure to look really fetching while you do so. 

"Megeve" has that mellow '60s sound going on -- a good rhythm to keep life moving along, but overall it's laid-back and happy to just hang out in the background while you sip a few cocktails and discuss who's cooler, Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. 

"The Drip-Dry Waltz" comes from that super-famous scene where Cary Grant takes a shower, fully clothed. Oh yes, he does, in his own charming Cary Grant way, and it's a scene almost guarantee it will make you laugh (and want to watch the whole movie -- that's what happened to me. I saw this scene in some sort of PBS program when I was a teen and could not rest until I'd found and watched the whole movie). But anyway, the song is a frothy little bit of adorableness that perfectly matches the scene in every respect. 

If you want, you can listen to the whole album here on YouTube!

(This review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on May 10, 2016.)

Monday, June 13, 2022

Announcing Legends of Western Cinema Week 2022

Yippee!  Olivia (of Meanwhile, in Rivendell...) and Heidi (of Along the Brandywine) and I are co-hosting Legends of Western Cinema Week again this summer!

You are hereby invited to join us the last week of July to celebrate all things related to western movies and TV shows.  The three of us will provide a tag you can fill out, plus some games and giveaways.  That leaves plenty of fun for you to contribute yourselves!

Because this is a blog party, not a blogathon, there is no limit to how many posts you can contribute, or how many people post about the same subject.  The only rules are that your posts have to be appreciative and not derogatory, have to be about westerns, and have to be new posts (not just linking to old ones).  Aside from that, it's all good!  Top ten lists, tribute posts to actors or characters, movie reviews, soundtrack appreciation posts, or whatever else you can dream up -- you are welcome to bring them to the table!

If you need help narrowing down your ideas, or aren't sure if something is "western" enough, we can discuss that in the comments.  But there is no actual sign-up list.  However, it would be awfully nice of you to post one of these lovely buttons (made by Olivia) to your own blog and link back to one of our announcement posts so other people can join the fun.

If you've never attended one of our LOWCW shindigs before, here's a link to my wrap-up for last year's event, just to give you an idea of the kinds of things people contribute.

Note: I broke my arm yesterday and have to have surgery to set it, so I will be a little slow answering comments for a while.  But I WILL answer them!

Saturday, June 11, 2022

"Top Gun: Maverick" (2022) -- Initial Thoughts

Are you looking for an adrenaline rush movie with repeated jolts of excitement?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick (2022).

Do you want a feel-good movie?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

In the mood for a gentle romance between two mature adults who don't jump into bed the moment they lay eyes on each other?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Need a shot of nostalgia that leaves you happy, not lonely?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Looking for an unapologetically pro-American military movie?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Have you missed summer blockbusters that didn't involve aliens or robots or monsters?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Want a movie that will make you laugh and cry both?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Wondering just how good Tom Cruise still looks on a motorcycle?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.

Really curious as to how they worked Val Kilmer's character Tom "Iceman" Kazansky into the plot, knowing that Kilmer has battled cancer and lost his voice?  Go see Top Gun: Maverick.  (Spoiler: it was clever and well-done and respectful.)

Seriously, this movie was FAR better than I expected.  Granted, I've only seen Top Gun (1986) maybe four or five times, and most of those were when I was in college.  But what I remember of it was not nearly as nuanced or emotionally satisfying as this one is.  I am impressed.

(And, yes, Tom Cruise still looks really good on a motorcycle.  But it's highly unfair that the man turns sixty this year and still looks that good in jeans and shirtless.)

This post is dedicated to Colonel Michael A. Haack, USAF (Ret.), my real-life hero.  Every time I watch a movie that involves the Air Force, particularly fighter pilots, I think of my cousin Mike.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Mad About Ladd Tag

This tag originated a couple of years ago on Gabriela's blog Pale Writer.  I was tagged for it just recently by Gill from ReelWeegieMidget Reviews.  You know I can't resist sharing pictures and gifs of Alan Ladd, or rhapsodizing about him, so... here we are.

The Rules 
  • Please add the name of the person/blogger who tagged you as well as a link to their blog and my blog (Pale Writer) ( I said blog a lot there), and my original post. 
  • Please post your four favourite pictures of Alan Ladd as well as your favourite gif. 
  • Say why you love these four pictures and this gif. 
  • Tag four other bloggers/people who are part of the classic film blog world or film community on Twitter. 
  • And please circulate the rules.

Right!  I think I can handle that ;-)

Okay, here are my four favorite pictures of Alan Ladd:

I bought this picture on eBay and have it framed and displayed in my bedroom.  (Yes, my husband is okay with this.)  I adore this shot because it's such a sweet, natural smile from him -- unlike in a lot of smiling promo photos, he looks genuinely happy here.  This has been my phone screen background for several years now, too, ever since I bought it.  It always makes me smile.

You might recognize this one from a header I have had for this blog a couple times.  I like the sort of casual pose, the peek at his cowboy boots, and the fact that the wind messed his hair up.  Also, again with a really cheerful, genuine smile -- I am always a sucker for those.  Alan loved being at his ranch, Alsulana, which I suspect is where this was taken.  And hey, look, you can see his actual wedding ring, not the big clunky thing he wore over it during movies!

Uh, yeah, who wouldn't swoon over this photo?  WOWSA.  The flipped collar, the perfect hair, the effortless beauty of that face, the shadowy lighting... I have a print of this one hanging in my bedroom too.  (Before you start to think I have an Alan Ladd shrine, please know I have quite a few shots of other actors and actresses mixed in here and there too...)

Finally, this funny shot of Alan clowning around on a bicycle is so sweet and carefree!  Just a quick moment someone snapped of a natural athlete being silly, and the athlete also happens to be a famous movie star.

And, here is my favorite Alan Ladd .gif.  I made it myself after watching Her First Romance (1940) because it's just such a cute little moment from Alan.  His character was just given the cold shoulder, and his shivery reaction cracks me up!

Now for tagging people.  They might have done this already, but I know that Jocelyn of Classic Film Observations and Obsessions and VT Dorchester are both Alan Ladd fans, so I'm going to tag them.  And I'll tag Eva of The Caffeinated Fangirl too because she's shared a lot of Alan Ladd love with me lately.  As for a fourth... hmmm... I suspect Phyl at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies may have some favorite Alan Ladd pictures to share.

Play if you want to!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Polishing off my Spring To-Do List

Memorial Day has come and gone, and my kids have finished off their school year, so I'm declaring springtime over and summertime upon us.  I maaaaaay have delayed writing this post for a couple of days just so I could finish checking off one item from my spring to-do list, but since the technical first day of summer is weeks away yet, I don't feel even a smidgen of guilt over that.

All book and movie titles are linked to my reviews if I have reviewed those already :-)

Here we go!

(All photos are mine, many from my Instagram.)

~ Finish the major revisions of My Rock and My Refuge CHECK!!!!!!!!!  I have sent it back to my editor, plus I also sent it to my cover artist.  I am so, so happy to have these revisions done!  A rather large chunk had to get completely rewritten, and lots of other things changed here and there because of that, but I rather think it's turned out quite lovely.  Right now, I am hoping for an August or September release, but that does depend on whether the editor thinks it needs more overhauling, or just fine-tuning.  We shall see!

~ Start a street team for my Once Upon a Western series Check!  We call ourselves the Outlaws, and we have been having a rollicking good time getting to know each other.  I haven't had much for them to do yet, but that will change sooooooon :-D

~ Read 3 books for my latest Classics Club list Check!  I read eight:

~ Read 10 books off my TBR shelves Check!  I had a great spring for reading and read twenty books off my TBR shelves :-o  They were:

~ Watch 4 movies off my TBW shelves Check!  I watched six:

  • Without a Clue (1988)
  • The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
  • Calamity Jane (1953)
  • Henry V (1944)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)

~ Go see Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore Check!  It was okay, but I have no desire to see it again.  Parts of it really bugged me, parts offended me, and parts of it just fell flat.  But I did enjoy hanging out with the core characters from the first movie again, so there's that.

~ Go see The Quiet Man on the big screen thanks to TCM and Fathom Events Check!  I took my ten-year-old along, and she very much enjoyed it.  I have now seen a John Wayne movie on the big screen -- AT LAST!!!  It was absolutely marvelous.

~ Make a hobbit-themed wreath Check!  I think it turned out really cute:

~ Make a fairy garden outside Check!  Well, we're in the process, as you can see.  we haven't got anything flowering yet, and we haven't had time to make cute little twig furnishings for the park in the center, but we're getting there.

My three kids and I each have a little ceramic fairy house that we bought, and succulents around the houses to look like trees.  We have little flat black pebbles making paths between the houses to lead to a little park in the center where we planted some tiny plants.  We also scattered seeds in the open areas, some of which came up.  

This is a close-up of my fairy house, which I love.  The garden is definitely still a work in progress, though!

~ Visit Disney World and Legoland for the first time! Check!  We had a very jolly time :-D  Here's a picture of me in my favorite spot in the Magic Kingdom:

Will you look at that?  I checked EVERYTHING off!  Oh my goodness.  No wonder I'm a bit tired -- it's been a busy spring, hasn't it?

Look for my summer to-do list soon!

Friday, June 03, 2022

"The Wild and the Dirty" (aka "Johnny Hamlet") (1968)

I spent quite a few years hankering to see this movie.  A Spaghetti Western version of Hamlet?  Yes, please!  My husband tracked down a copy for me as a gift a couple years ago, and I was happy to discover it lived up to my years of expectations.

The Wild and the Dirty (1968) is also known as Johnny Hamlet.  And its original title is Quella Sporca Storia nel West, which I think roughly translates more as "That Dirty Story in the West."  That sounds like a much skankier film than this is, so I can see why they translated it just a bit differently.

The copy I have is in a two-pack from "The Spaghetti Western Collection," as pictured here, and it is entirely dubbed into English.  Except for Gilbert Roland's lines, I assume, as he appears to be speaking English throughout, and I think that sounds like his voice?  Horst Frank might be speaking English too, but I try not to pay much attention to him.  You'll understand why later.

I am not marking any spoilers here.  I figure a) this is a really obscure movie and you're probably never going to see it, and b) it's based on Hamlet, so there aren't really any surprises anyway.  Except one at the end, but we'll get to that.

The Wild and the Dirty (1968) begins with Johnny Hamilton (Andrea Giordana, billed as Chip Corman) asleep on a beach, dreaming dark things about his father and happy things about frolicking with a girl back home.

Neither dream lets us see anyone or anything very clearly.  Smoke obscures the figure he recognizes as his father, and its face remains turned away.  The girl never shows her face for more than a moment.  Their happy, playful flirting and kissing is mostly hidden behind a tangled mess of flowers.  Johnny's past is both obscured and separated from his present.

What awakens him?  An actor, sitting on the beach nearby, reciting the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet.  It's a little bit meta and a little bit of a knowing wink to the audience, and it definitely makes us aware we're about to watch a pretty original spin on this classic Shakespearean tragedy.

Johnny Hamilton is on the way home after the American Civil War.  He's clearly enduring some PTSD, and he's also anxious about what may have been happening at home while he was away.  This is a serious and pensive Hamlet, but I get the impression he was once a pretty cheerful guy.  Before he goes on his way that morning, he saves the actor and his companions from a couple of guys trying to ambush... someone.  It's unclear whether they're there to attack the acting troupe or Johnny.

Johnny arrives in his hometown and has a staredown with a couple of creepy, scuzzy locals.  He doesn't notice his old friend Horace (Gilbert Roland) because Horace is inside a building when Johnny rides by. But Horace spots Johnny immediately, and watches from a window as Johnny silently passes through town. 

You need to know that Gilbert Roland is very, very wonderful in this movie.  Notice the director gives us two different views of his ruggedly handsome, but weary face.  Very kind of him.  I suspect my friend DKoren will particularly appreciate that.

Johnny arrives at the Danark Cemetery, and it's so completely cool that I'm going to spam you with a bunch of screencaps of it, because this cemetery... is inside a cave.  And it is fantastic.  Feast your eyes:

I'm telling you, this is one of the coolest set-pieces I have ever seen in a movie.  Not just in a Hamlet movie or in a western, but in any movie.  It is sooooo evocative and atmospheric and creepy, but also kind of peaceful at the same time.

Here in the underground cemetery, Johnny meets up with the gravedigger (Franco Latini) and finds his father's grave.  It has an ominous note carved into the gravestone:

Well, so much for needing a ghost to come bearing the bad news.  This gravestone will do the job nicely.

Next thing we know, those two creepy, scuzzy men from town arrive at the graveyard and taunt Johnny about his father's death.  Now, up until this point, Andrea Giordana has been playing Johnny like he's in a sort of fog, just drifting about from one event to the next.  But one look at the fire in his eyes here, and you know that's all changing:

I love that he still has tears drying on his cheeks.  It's so subtle, but so perfect.

Anyway, those two creepsters try to goad Johnny into a fight.  But someone in the shadows shoots their guns out of their hands, and off they run.  Who is this unseen benefactor?  Oh, nobody important, just Johnny's best pal and mentor, Horace.  He has this little habit of turning up just in the nick of time and rescuing Johnny from baddies, you see.  Handy guy to be friends with.

Horace tells Johnny that his father's murder is blamed on a bandit named Santana.  Johnny's uncle Claude then killed Santana. But Horace doesn't sound very convinced about either of those "facts." Johnny heads home to Ranch Elsenor to find his mother and try to learn more.  Buuuuuut, more shocks await him there.  He walks in and sees his mother Gertry (Francoise Prevost) in the arms of his uncle, Claude Hamilton (Horst Frank), rolling around on a bed like they were teenagers.

Side note: doesn't Andrea Giordana have interesting eyes?  Green in the middle and blue around the edges.  I'm not sure I've ever seen eyes quite like them before.  Beautiful.

Annnnnnnyway, of course, Gertry and Claude are all, "Hey, guess what?  We got married!  Isn't that fun?  It's totally not weird.  Why are you being weird about it?"  Because, well, Johnny's understandably quite discomfited by this whole situation.  He reacts by pouting, taking long walks, thinking a lot, and generally being upset by all that's happened.

But, let's face it: if your uncle married your mom after dispatching the guy who killed your dad, and your uncle looked like a '70s Ken Doll, you'd be weirded out too.

Yeah, Claude doesn't even try NOT to be creepy most of the time.  Ew.

Well, at least one person besides Horace is happy to see Johnny back from the war, and that's the sweet and lovely Ophelia (Gabriella Boccardo, billed as Gabriella Grimaldi).  She gets called Emily for some reason in cast lists, but the English dub-over has Johnny call her Ophelia, so I'm calling her Ophelia here.

They meet up in that millhouse behind Johnny in the picture of him being all broody.  That's the same millhouse he dreamed about in connection with Ophelia, and we get the sense that this was their usual rendezvous spot before he went to the war.  Smooching and conversation ensues.  Also, the mill is the second-coolest set in the movie, after the cemetery.  How come more westerns don't have scenes inside mills?  They totally had all sorts of mills in the Old West: gristmills, sawmills, etc.  And they make such cool sets.

Well, anyway, Ophelia is possibly a little bit... not all there.  She tells Johnny she's sad because her father keeps yelling at her to marry, but she'd promised Johnny to wait for him, and then he took a long time getting home from the war, so her father's been harsh to her.  She says Johnny's father is much nicer, knows all about her waiting for Johnny and approves, and even nicknamed her "blue eyes."  Which is not very original, since she does have blue eyes, but hey, it happens.  I think she's talking about Johnny's real father, who is now dead, but she might be talking about Uncle Claude.  In which case, ew!  Ophelia!  What even?

Um, so, Johnny jumps to conclusions and thinks she's talking about Uncle Claude, and he yells at Ophelia a lot, suspecting she gave herself to Claude and now is running back to Johnny because his uncle's finished with her.  But before he can yell too much, back come the two creepy scuzzmeisters.  They proceed to beat Johnny up pretty badly, and then rough Ophelia up while he's helpless to stop them.  Don't worry, though -- Ophelia comes off pretty well.  One of them rips her shirt and forces a kiss on her, and then he lets her run away.  After all, she's the sheriff's daughter, so they don't dare actually hurt her much.  They'd rather get their jollies beating Johnny up again anyway.

Happily, you remember how I mentioned Horace had this really helpful habit?  Well, guess who turns up in the nick of time again.

Don't you want Horace for a guardian angel?  Cuz I sure do.

Oh, this is Ophelia's charming father, the Sheriff (Giorgio Sammartino, as Giorgio Sanmartin).  I guess the writers decided he didn't deserve a first or last name.  I agree with them.  Actually, Horace says he has a better name for him than Sheriff, but doesn't tell us what it is.  Use your imagination, I guess.

Sheriff is just here to tell Johnny to stay away from Ophelia, and then he rides off after trading insults with Horace.

Well, Horace has a clue he picked up near Johnny's father's body, a very distinctive silver thingamabog.

He's hoping it will help him and Johnny track down the real killer, because they are both starting to suspect it wasn't Santana at all, and that Claude's shooting of Santana was a cover-up for the murder.

So, Johnny starts asking questions.  He chats up Uncle Claude about why he ever suspected Santana.  He waxes philosophic about the nature of cowardice and courage while sharing an evening drink with Horace.  And then, that acting troupe from the beginning arrives!

With them is the lovely actress Betty (Stefania Careddu), who has been interested in Johnny since he saved their lives back on the beach.  Or maybe even before that.  And, since Ophelia has been forbidden to spend time with Johnny now, and since he's mad at her anyway, Johnny returns Betty's interest, and how.

Now, before you think we've gone completely off track and left the plot behind just because the director's wife thought there weren't enough smoochy-smoochy scenes or something, look what Johnny discovers!  Her earrings match that thingamabob Horace found by his father's body!

Betty says she got them from a man down on the border a couple of weeks ago.  Does this mean Johnny's father's killer is still alive?  (Cue lots of dramatic music.)

Johnny hires the gravedigger to dig up Santana's grave and see if anyone's in it.  Because we did NOT build that amazing underground cemetery set to only use it for one scene.  Unfortunately, there actually is a dead body in the coffin, and it even has a gunbelt with those little thingamabobs on it.

Uncle Claude is not super happy about Johnny digging around in the past, so to speak.  He scolds Johnny for "sniffing around like a miserable, stinking dog," and Johnny gets good and angry over this, treating us to this perfectly scrumptious glare:

Uh, yeah, where was I?  My goodness, that glare is distracting.  Oh!  Yes.  Meanwhile, back in town, Betty the actress turns up dead, and robbed of her earrings, too.  Next, Johnny gets ambushed in the saloon, and we all know what that means.

That's three times Horace has come to Johnny's rescue, if you're counting.

Johnny decides to go on a little trip to try to find out where Betty the actress got those earrings.  His mom brings him his dad's fancy dueling pistol because we haven't seen her much yet, and she looks really nice in that red dress.

Cue Johnny riding around among some really interesting rock formations.

He has a big fight with some of Santana's henchmen, discovers that Santana isn't dead after all, and ::GASP!:: that Santana is actually pals with Uncle Claude.  Something about bonding over a gold shipment they robbed together, though it turns out that it's possible Uncle Claude stole the gold from Santana and kept it for himself.  

Santana gets pretty miffed about probably getting double crossed, as one does.  So, they all head off to force Uncle Claude to show them where he hid the gold.  But before they do, Johnny gets probably my favorite line in the whole thing.  He tells Uncle Claude "I refuse to waste time with any more of your play acting.  Once you understand that, I'll be all right."  I LOVE that line.

One ambush later, and Johnny's in serious trouble.  I think you know by now what that means.

Time for Horace to randomly come riding by and rescue him!  Alas, Horace gets shot in the leg in the process.  Johnny helps bandage him up once they're safely away, and the two friends say goodbye before Johnny rides off to find his destiny.  Neither of them expects to see the other alive again.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Uncle Claude shoots Ophelia and dumps her body in the river along with Johnny's dad's gun, which Johnny dropped during that ambush.  Now, Johnny's wanted for Ophelia's murder.

Annnnnnnnnnd it starts to look like Johnny's destiny is pretty danged unpleasant.

He gets caught, beaten, and trussed up between two poles to die in the sun because just killing him would have ended the movie too soon.  We can't end the movie until we have an overly long gunfight between Uncle Claude's pals and Santana over the whole double-cross thing with the gold shipment.  

This also gives Gertry a chance to figure out her new husband is a skunk, get shot by one of his henchmen, ride around in the desert after having been shot, and try to rescue her son from the Sheriff's "justice."  Which she has no choice but to do, since Horace is off nursing a wounded leg and is unavailable for rescues at the moment.

Or is he?

Commence rescue number five!  That guy Horace is unstoppable.

Johnny's hands are all messed up, so when he and Horace go after the two creepy skeezeoids from town and Uncle Claude, he has to tie his gun to his hand.  Which I think is a pretty neat visual version of Hamlet's line "O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!" (Hamlet, IV, 4)

A couple more shoot-outs occur, which take care of all the bad guys.  When the smoke and gold dust clear, the gravedigger arrives with a wagonload of coffins, ready to get to work.

He's greeted by the last two men standing.

I promised you a surprise at the end!  Johnny Hamilton doesn't die!  He rides away with Horace, leaving all the death and destruction behind.  And the gravedigger, even though he says he's the fastest shovel in Texas, maybe the whole west.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically, yes.  There's some kissing between Claude and Gertry and between Johnny and Betty, both involving lying on a bed, but kissing is all that happens.  Emily's dress is torn from her shoulder, exposing her corset, which covers as much as a one-piece bathing suit would.  It's clear that her attacker is messing with her just to get to Johnny, and she runs away without being molested more than that.  There's a little bad language, and definitely a lot of violence, most of it gunplay, but some of it fist fighting.  And Johnny looks dead at one point, when he's hung on the X-style cross, which could be scary to younger viewers.  I would say this is fine for teens and some tweens, but a bit much for children.  Or, too much for my ten-year-old, anyway.

Here's how I'd "grade" this adaptation of Hamlet:

Hamlet/Johnny Hamilton: A
Horatio/Horace: A+
Laertes: N/A
Ophelia/Emily:  C
Claudius/Claude:  B-
Gertrude/Gertry:  C
Polonius/Sheriff: N/A
Overall Production: N/A because it's a retelling, not a production of the play.

If you want to see how it stacks up against the other 19 adaptations/productions of Hamlet I've seen, check out my "Hamlet" Adaptations page.

This review is my entry for the Foreign Western Blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini this weekend.

I took a lot of really nice screencaps of Gilbert Roland that never fit in the review, so I'm just going to share the best two here, because I can't bear to deprive you of his handsome closeups.